MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

Riverside

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^ That's super interesting! Now that I know to look, it appears that the practice ended by November 2016. However, prior to that...

On the December 2015 schedule, there is a mid-evening train that ran inbound from Rockport, turned at Salem, and headed out to Rockport. (And with a much less pleasant timed transfer than today's schedule allows -- 10 min vs 20+ min.)

And the July 2014 schedule actually had two such trains, one turning at Salem at 7:35pm (survived at least to Dec 2015) and one turning at Beverly at 11:20pm (gone by Dec 2014).

Unfortunately, Dave Perry's archive doesn't have any earlier schedules for this route, but still... very cool, today I learned!
 

F-Line to Dudley

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^ That's super interesting! Now that I know to look, it appears that the practice ended by November 2016. However, prior to that...

On the December 2015 schedule, there is a mid-evening train that ran inbound from Rockport, turned at Salem, and headed out to Rockport. (And with a much less pleasant timed transfer than today's schedule allows -- 10 min vs 20+ min.)

And the July 2014 schedule actually had two such trains, one turning at Salem at 7:35pm (survived at least to Dec 2015) and one turning at Beverly at 11:20pm (gone by Dec 2014).

Unfortunately, Dave Perry's archive doesn't have any earlier schedules for this route, but still... very cool, today I learned!
It's been a transient phenomenon from time to time...sort of like how Needham Line weekend service comes back like twice a decade every decade but never lasts more than a year before the next budget axe. Never all that widely-deployed or long-lasting to stake out any debate headspace. Now granted the breakout discussion here is an post-128 branching, not a forced transfer on the inner zones like Rozzie/W. Rox/Needham's torrent of thrown rotten vegetables at that one quickly-rejected Rail Vision slide. While Eastern Route really doesn't have any capacity constraint to need this, there arguably are some bit-prospect shuttle potentials out past 495 land that aren't bad on-spec. On-Cape, for instance. Or RIDOT-Newport if South Coast schedules to Boston were the least bit usable.

It's not blanket-bad by any means. But you're definitely going to get your ass kicked if proposing it at any line's Zone 1A/Urban Rail break.
 

Riverside

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It's not blanket-bad by any means. But you're definitely going to get your ass kicked if proposing it at any line's Zone 1A/Urban Rail break.
Oh yeah, for sure. And to be clear, I meant "very cool" as in "this is interesting," not as in "this sounds like a good way to provide service".

Right and you make a very good point -- the Eastern Route's split happens further out than any other line's, particularly in that the resulting branches are largely co-equal in length and ridership. Canton Junction is almost as far, but Stoughton vs Providence are very different.

If/When Haverhill ever gets shifted back over the Wildcat, then we would see a pretty similar topology there -- the major difference being that both branches would have major small city anchors at the far end, which the Eastern Route does not. (And likewise, Salem/Beverly makes for a relatively large split-point anchor, which the Wildcat lacks.)
 

Riverside

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From the MBTA:
The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services announced today that, due to low employee availability because of COVID-19 absences, Commuter Rail will temporarily operate a Reduced Service Schedule starting Monday, December 14. Regular train service includes 541 daily trains, but as of December 14, Commuter Rail will operate 246 daily trains.
Full press release here. Basically it's the Storm Schedules, apparently. I guess we are indeed weathering a storm, of an altogether different variety.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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From the MBTA:


Full press release here. Basically it's the Storm Schedules, apparently. I guess we are indeed weathering a storm, of an altogether different variety.
Note this isn't just on-train staff. The maint ranks are similarly decimated, and those were already in short supply because of the years-long hiring backlog for shop & field craft labor following the last early retirements purge. They never made much headway on that critical backlog pre-COVID...and of course BET doesn't have WFH luxury for shop shifts so they're inherently high-vulnerability to an outbreak despite the best precautions.
 

Ch1ck3nPotPi3

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Note this isn't just on-train staff. The maint ranks are similarly decimated, and those were already in short supply because of the years-long hiring backlog for shop & field craft labor following the last early retirements purge. They never made much headway on that critical backlog pre-COVID...and of course BET doesn't have WFH luxury for shop shifts so they're inherently high-vulnerability to an outbreak despite the best precautions.
Is that why I've been seeing a lot more trains with two engines leading recently?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Is that why I've been seeing a lot more trains with two engines leading recently?
Maybe. If one unit's got failing HEP generator they'll sometimes use it as a propulsion-only leader while it awaits shop time and have a HEP-only trailing unit. Temporarily maxes their resources rather than totally idling the unit.

But could also be for numerous other reasons.
 

Riverworks

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At least a couple of weeks of extra track time for construction projects .. a slight silver lining.
 

jklo

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While I don't doubt the absences, there are rumors on the internets that MA is going to shutdown again at the end of the year. Might just be the MBTA getting ahead of the curve to save a bit of money.
 

HelloBostonHi

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While I don't doubt the absences, there are rumors on the internets that MA is going to shutdown again at the end of the year. Might just be the MBTA getting ahead of the curve to save a bit of money.
There have been rumours that a "shutdown" is just "two weeks away" since like May so I wouldn't bet on it, more likely a few tightening restrictions and not much else.

As for the absences, check slide 3, Keolis was already at an all time high before the latest peak: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/...-F-report-from-general-manager-accessible.pdf
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Somewhat related...but buried in one of the recent "Cutting Forward" presentations, the T is proposing to postpone its 200-coach RFP until some other millennium. Which is not exactly what one would call a serious cost-saving ovature...as consigning the shop at BET to perpetual overload duct-taping 35-year-old, never-rebuilt, fast-decaying Bombardier and MBB coaches is total anti-efficiency in belt-tightening even in the face of mass service cuts.

Smells like a bluff just like so much other truthiness in the service cuts. This isn't slashing the roster commensurate with slashing train schedules, because the locomotive rebuilds are still proceeding apace and the other/sooner +80 Rotem bi-level order is stacked heavily to cab cars over trailers because it purge all remaining single-level Bomber & MBB cabs whose control ends are irredeemably shot. As a loco + cab car pair are the base requirements for running 'a' train and the blind trailers just fill out the train length, Keolis will have the healthy available fleet any which way for running a full non-COVID schedule (if not exactly any above-and-beyond expansion). So this contract postponement doesn't mesh at all with the service levels axe. Apparently they've also got to make threats at quality of service by making every commuter not lucky enough to board onto one of the new/rebuilt bi-levels to put up with total rolling ruins until they get frustrated and bail for their cars.. Nicely obnoxious stuff like: more air leaks, shot suspension with more/louder vibration, more vestibule doors that won't stay shut, more ass-hurty dessicated seat padding, more HVAC crap-outs and 'hot' cars in summer, more burned-out lighting fixtures. And a whole lot more overcrowded/too-short trains when the walking wounded pile up outside BET and the shop can no longer keep up.

The rebuild aftermarket market is nearly D.O.A. for aluminum-body coaches like this...especially the MBB's which have a lot of frame rot issues in addition to being overall heavily-worn because they were a quickie order built from lower-grade aluminum than the simultaneous-purchase Bombers. Nobody's going to price out a full top-down remanufacture like the 1978 Pullman 200-series--best-condition of the current flats--got in 1996 to reset their clock. And if they wanted to try, they'd be better off waiting on Metro North/ConnDOT's dispersal of their near-identical 1990's Bombardier Shoreliner coaches (the ones distinguished by the extra center doors) rather than dealing with any funded life extensions on their own bodies with >10 years' additional frame rot and zero preventative measures taken. The cost increases there start drawing back to par with buying all-new, especially when considering all the day-to-day chew that gets added by consigning the shops to perpetual overload and low fleet availability and especially considering that other agencies are not postponing their coach procurements at all leaving the price points for buying all-new in a stably attractive spot.


Always a better bet to side with "stupid" over "evil", so I doubt there's any eight-dimensional chess being played here. As above, it's not the part of the roster (locos + cabs) that sets availability for train schedules so doesn't provide effective cover for the service axe. Though apparently you're now expected to suck it up for as uncomfortable a ride as you can tolerate until being forced to give up for how much the precipitously increasing old-age maladies are going to take their toll on ride quality. And it's absolutely putrid cost control on the ops side for overloading an already threadbare shop staff with an open-ended vicious cycle of band-aiding. Potentially it's another one of Pollack's slew-foot shots at "icky poo wires", given that the overwhelming bid favorite for that 200-unit order would be the Bombardier MLV...its non-powered trailers & cabs 100% compatible with the new self-powered version that was bid to the EMU RFI. The coach order always loomed large in domino-effect to what we chose for the EMU order. We know damn well they're looking for any/all excuse to bury the Rail Vision, so turfing the independent coach order may well be an attack vector. If, say, a mass order of compatible MLV's gets precluded by these "NO NEW ONLY OLD" not-savings and that in-turn raises the unit costs of the EMU contract...then that's probably the next target in the Admin.'s troll-a-thon.
 

jklo

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There have been rumours that a "shutdown" is just "two weeks away" since like May so I wouldn't bet on it, more likely a few tightening restrictions and not much else.
There's varying degrees of shutdown, but if they close non-essential businesses and offices, CR ridership would fall back to basically zero.

I have a feeling that going back to full service was a test to see if ridership on the CR would rebound at all if they went back to full service. That chart says the answer is no.

Edit: Boston hospital capacity is down to 10%.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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The final two non-rebuilt Kawasaki 7xx cars were yanked from service yesterday to be sent to Alstom for rebuild. That marks the beginning-of-the-end for the 5-year long midlife overhaul program, as 93 rebuilds are back in-service, 3 are in-testing, and 10 remain at Alstom in Hornell, NY in the program. Alstom's turnaround pace has been unaffected by COVID, so the program will formally wrap with all 106 cars done sometime within the next 6 weeks. They've been averaging about 2 cars per every 2 weeks on the return deliveries.

For spotting purposes, the 33 coaches in the 9xx series Kawasakis delivered 2005 are the only bi-levels left on Commuter Rail that don't feature any of the new scrolling ASA screens or vestibule bike racks. They're also the only ones that haven't yet gotten a max speed uprate to 93 MPH. No plans posted yet anywhere for bringing the 900's up-to-spec, but given that they're still full 10 years away from needing their own midlife overhaul they'll probably install the screens + racks and uprate the brakes for the new speed limit quietly in-house as all are minor enough touches. Providence Line schedules refactored for 90 MPH are still a ways off, needing the full +80 order of Rotem bi-levels to get delivered for 2022-23 before they have enough in-house equipment flex to play keep-away with the 79 MPH-capped single-levels on Providence trains.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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12/29: "Imma goin' take the freight train to Lynn!" (from NERail)



Not something you see everyday, but New Hampshire Northcoast (originating shortline of the daily Boston Sand & Gravel freight) was testing out the newly-installed PTC signal equipment on its locomotive fleet with a little T help earlier this week. Seen here in Chelsea with NHN's GP38-2 leader pulling a standard Eastern Route consist (the T-logoed F40 on the back was only along to provide coach electricity). They did a few of these test runs on the midday off-peak last week inner Eastern Route + Reading Line while the Lowell Line was temp-disrupted for GLX construction. These green-paint locos can usually be seen lashed-up with Pan Am power on "DOBO", the daily sand train from Dover, NH to North Station that runs on the morning rush via the Downeaster's regular route. That's a PTC radio transmitter pole the loco is about to pass in this pic.
 

Wash

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Apparently the commuter rail has sent a message to train crews saying that Winchester Station is "Now closed indefinitely". Drop-offs only for the rest of today (January 7th), no service after that.

This seems to indicate that a structural issue has developed that has rendered the station platforms unsafe. I'll scrounge around on the MBTA website and see what I can find.

EDIT: The MBTA website says that the station has been closed due to "Safety Concerns", which seems to line up with the above information.
 
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jklo

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Not sure if this is actually new news, but the reduced schedule on the CR that started with the absences looks like it's extended indefinitely. Plus no weekends on some lines past the 23rd.
 

tysmith95

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Apparently the commuter rail has sent a message to train crews saying that Winchester Station is "Now closed indefinitely". Drop-offs only for the rest of today (January 7th), no service after that.

This seems to indicate that a structural issue has developed that has rendered the station platforms unsafe. I'll scrounge around on the MBTA website and see what I can find.

EDIT: The MBTA website says that the station has been closed due to "Safety Concerns", which seems to line up with the above information.
Fortunately there's another station a quarter mile away, so no real loss.
 

Wash

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Fortunately there's another station a quarter mile away, so no real loss.
Yes, but this is also the second piece of commuter rail infrastructure (the first piece being the Gloucester Draw) that has broken before it could be fixed or replaced within the past year. Really inspires confidence in the rest of the system's infrastructure.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Yes, but this is also the second piece of commuter rail infrastructure (the first piece being the Gloucester Draw) that has broken before it could be fixed or replaced within the past year. Really inspires confidence in the rest of the system's infrastructure.
Gloucester Draw was truly unforeseen (they started demoing half the structure and found a terrifyingly large sinkhole under the other half risking imminent collapse. That project was at least well on-time/on-budget before things took a sudden turn. Winchester was wholly preventable because the excruciating community input delays with walkways that already needed patch repairs in the last 10 years for structural integrity was the sole cause of this. They knew the temp repairs wouldn't hold and that they had to get the perma-fix show on the road...but the project management was so wretchedly clumsy they chewed years of meaningless time navel-gazing at >80% design window-dressing rather than proceeding. It was time-sensitive, and they treated it as anything but.

If there's an indictment to be had of CR project management, it's frankly the stations not the line structures that are festering sore #1. Look at how interminably long it's taken Ruggles and Chelsea construction to progress. And we're supposed to be kicking of a mass ADA-thon of platform upgrades in a few years? Not at this pace! By contrast the track gangs in 2020 finished Franklin Line Double Tracking Phase I ahead of schedule and met the PTC mandate with >month to spare on that hella tight federal deadline. Gloucester Draw, shitty reveal as it is, also didn't slip that far off schedule with the extreme-sudden revamp of its construction staging from half-and-half demo/rebuild over weekend shutdowns to full-on blitz job...so that one may in the end turn out to be a positive example of project mgt. flexibility if they meet/beat their new schedule. But any station project looks utterly hopeless on its calendar given recent track records.
 

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